Thomas opened his Buckhead restaurant in 1985. His original intention was to model it after California-based Hamburger Mary’s, but he settled on serving healthier fare long before it was a popular trend in the South.
“When we switched concepts, we started using coconut oil, clarified butter, amaranth flour, quinoa, blue corn pozole,” Thomas said in a 2013 interview with Eater Atlanta. “You call Sysco 30 years ago and say, ‘Send me some quinoa and amaranth flour,’ and they hang up on you. It's different now. Donna [a nutritionist who influenced the change in direction] helped me build a very healthy concept.”
Before opening R. Thomas’, the restaurateur served as the first president of operations at Kentucky Fried Chicken, and he founded a Charlotte-based fried chicken chain that would become Bojangles.